Interview with Ryan Ike, Composer & Sound Designer for Media

I recently had the chance to sit down for an interview with composer and sound designer Ryan Ike. This transcript is a condensed version of the interview. Follow Ryan on Twitter at @RyanIkeComposer.

Joshua Du Chene: Hey there, Ryan. Thanks for sitting down with me for this interview. Let’s start with you introducing yourself and what you do, then I’ll ask you a handful of questions about your career.

Ryan Ike: My name is Ryan Ike, I make music and sound primarily for video games, but I also do work in film, television, and advertisement media.

JD: Great. What path led you to your career of working in media and video games?

RI: I’m really fortunate in that I’ve sort of always known that I wanted to do music, even from an early age. I’ve always loved video games, I’ve always found the music of games inspiring in the way that it’s interactive in ways that most music is not. The player gets to affect, in many ways, what happens to the soundtrack. And I always thought it would be cool to do that.

But throughout high school, college, and grad school, I always took a really academic focus on music because that’s how I thought you got a career doing music. During my grad school program, we mostly studied atonal music because that was being pushed in academia, but I didn’t like it. If you’re not familiar with atonal music, imagine if you took a xylophone, a pipe organ, a couple anvils and police sirens, and then just pushed them all down a flight of stairs. That’s what atonal music sounds like to me.

So it really took me doing this type of music I didn’t like for three years in grad school to come to the point where I had to make a decision to either keep doing this atonal music I hated, or finally say, “screw it,” and go after this other type of music that I actually liked. My wife was also there telling me that I should just do the thing I actually wanted to do.

It wasn’t like I never thought about doing music for games – I thought about it constantly – but it seemed so inaccessible. It felt like pursuing pro NFL or becoming a movie star, like it was that inaccessible. And there wasn’t a a big indie scene back then either, so there were just these very few composers working for these big companies, and it seemed impossible to get in with the high competition and limited jobs.

Fortunately, the tools have become better, cheaper, and more accessible so that anybody can do this. And we have a huge indie scene now with more opportunities for audio people. So that’s what really helped me get into this career.

JD: Amazing, thanks for sharing that. So now that you’re working full time in the music industry, what does a typical day on the job look like for you?

RI: Since I’m freelance, I work from my home studio and I set my own schedule. So typically, in the morning I take my dog for a walk and go to the gym, and I sit down to work around 10:30am and try to finish around 6:30pm every day. I find that it’s really important to have a sense of work-life balance, so I try to keep my work days to eight hours when I can. It’s really important to treat your non-work time as sacred – you have to see family, you have to take care of your health, so I keep my work to the weekdays and leave weekends open when I can.

It’s tricky to give you a picture of what my regular day looks like because it’s different every day. Most days I’m working on writing out the next track for a game that I’m working on. Some days I’m doing admin work and getting in touch with clients, other days I’m doing audio work where I’m walking around my apartment banging stuff together and recording it. So there really isn’t a regular schedule, it’s more like the night before, I write out a list of tasks that I’d like to get done the next day, then I start working on them to see how much I can get done. As you know, the work never ends – it’s not like, “Oh, I just need to get these TPS reports out and then I can go home.” So I like having that list of things so I can stay on task and see the progress I’m making.

JD: So it sounds like you have a structure in place for your workflow, but within that structure it’s very free and open for whatever you need to do at the time?

RI: Right. One thing I try to do every day, though, is to practice my instrument. Piano is my primary instrument, so when I sit down to work, the first thing I like to do is practice piano for a half hour or so. It’s really important for me to keep those skills up and keep learning new things and new music, so that’s definitely a part of my routine. I don’t want to lose that performance edge, and it’s really important for your writing to continue learning to play new music.

JD: When you’re working, do you ever feel uninspired or come up against writer’s block?

RI: Oh yeah, I usually have writer’s block once or twice a week.

JD: What do you do when you’re experiencing writer’s block?

RI: I have to get away from my studio or I’ll go insane, so I’ll usually get out and take the dog for a walk, or I’ll just go do something mundane that doesn’t have anything to do with work. One thing I’m working on getting better at now is switching tasks when I hit a wall on something. That’s one thing I like about this job, is that I have a variety of projects I’m always working on. So I’m trying to get better at changing to another project when I’m stuck on something, because often that will be enough to help me get back into the flow of things, then when I come back to that other project that was giving me trouble, I’ll have new ideas because I gave myself a break from it to do something different.

JD: That seems like a great tool to have in your kit. So speaking of roadblocks that come up sometimes, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

RI: The challenge of finding your voice, and not only that, but being cool with what your voice is once you find it. That one was kind of rough for me for a while. I went through graduate school and got this degree in music composition, and that sort of put on hold the types of music that I actually like to make. I’m a really melodic composer – I like to write a catchy main line and then hang everything on that. But it took me a long time to accept that was okay having been steeped in a program and culture that considered that a bit low-brow. But once I accepted that and became at peace with the fact that I’m a melodic composer and I like to write catchy things, I’ve felt a lot better and I enjoy my work so much more.

JD: Yeah, it reminds me of high school when it wasn’t cool to like certain types of music like pop music and boy bands. I remember hearing stuff that I actually kind of enjoyed, but not letting myself like it, and conversely trying to like stuff I didn’t actually enjoy because I thought it was what I was supposed to like based on my friend group and such.

RI: You basically just summed up high school in a sentence. Trying to like things you don’t actually like.

JD: So, we talked about some of the challenges you face in your career, but what are some of the biggest rewards of working in game audio?

RI: One of the things I love about this career is that it always provides you the opportunity to be doing a new thing that’s kind of uncomfortable, but in an awesome way. With each new project, I’m often doing a style that I’m unfamiliar with, so I do a deep dive into it to try to learn as much about a style as I can. One of the games I’m working on, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, is very old blues, folk, country, bluegrass type music, which I love, but I’ve never written that style before. So I get to explore what made those styles what they are and especially in the early Americana era. For another game I worked on called Gunpoint, they wanted me to do like noir jazz, and I can’t write jazz for crap. So it was kind of terrifying, but I love that challenge when somebody is like, “Do this type of music you’ve never done before, and make it sound like you know what you’re doing.”

JD: That sounds like a lot of fun, trying to puzzle together the most important pieces of a style of music so that you can do that style justice while still being your own music.

RI: Yeah, it’s really rewarding when you finish and people are like, “Man, you must have studied jazz for years,” and I’m 99.9% incredibly flattered, but there’s that 0.1% that feels like I’m getting away with something.

JD: What advice would you give to somebody who was considering a career doing game audio?

RI: Assuming you already have a computer, the first thing you’ll want to get your hands on is a DAW (digital audio workstation). That’s where you’re going to be doing most of your work. But it doesn’t have to be expensive. What I usually tell people starting out is to get Reaper. It’s a full-fledged DAW just like the other big names, but the license is like $60. And they have a free trial period where you can use the full program with all the features to see if you like it. And I think the trial period is pretty much as long as you want to use it, and they just hope that you’ll be a good person and eventually pay for the license if you end up using it a lot.

JD: Yeah, they have an indefinite free trial where there’s just a nag screen that pops up for like five seconds when you open Reaper that asks if you’re still evaluating it, and it reminds you to pay for a license if you’re going to keep using it. But you can click “still evaluating” as long as you want.

RI: Wow, yeah, so get Reaper – it’s full featured and there are plenty of professionals who use it as their main DAW. The second thing I would say is to network. At first, this was terrifying for me, but you’ve got to network. There are plenty of events each year that are worth attending. PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) is a great one that happens here in Seattle every fall at the end of August or beginning of September. While it’s mostly for fans, there are tons of industry professionals and indie devs and audio people that go to it.

JD: That’s where I first met you in 2014 was at the panel you were on at PAX.

RI: That’s right. It’s a great place for that. I’d also recommend GDC in San Francisco. The Game Developer’s Conference, which usually happens in March, is the big industry conference where all the professionals go. If you can only go to one thing, I’d recommend going to that because you’ll get every stripe of the industry from all over the globe. You’ll have these huge booths from all the big companies like Nintendo and Sony, then you’ll have a bunch of indie devs showing what they’re doing, and then there’s people who are making new hardware and all sorts of stuff from everywhere. And it’s just for developers, so everyone you meet there works in the industry.

Lastly, I’d check out IndieCade in Culver City, California in October. It’s much smaller, but it’s very focused on the indie scene. Just make sure that you don’t go and rub your business card on people’s faces. That’s what I tried to do my first year, but I’ve since realized that’s kind of gross. What you do is you go to these things to meet new people and make new friends. When you make as many friends as you can in as many facets of this industry, all you do is open doors. You might not get a bunch of gigs right away, but friendships are what are going to eventually get you gigs. If composer A is this amazing web presence and their work is incredible, but you have no connection or relationship with them, and then you’ve got composer B who is good, but maybe not as experienced, but you’ve grabbed a coffee or beer with them and you had a great time, you’re going to pick B every time, because you want to work with your friends. Even with other game audio people, like we’re technically competition, but you’ll often get gigs from other audio people whom you’ve met.

JD: Definitely, I’ve gotten a few gigs from other game audio people, so I can personally attest to that. So in wrapping things up, is there anything else you’d like to share?

RI: I would just encourage people that if they want to do this, just go for it, and don’t be afraid to be inventive. I have a friend I was mentoring as she began her game audio career, and she would show me something she was writing that was amazing, but she’d ask me, “What if I’m not writing this right? What if this isn’t what people like?” So I asked her, “Well, do you like it?” And she said yeah, so I was like, “Well, then go for it.” Because if you didn’t like what you were writing but you thought that other people might like it, wouldn’t that be the worst? To be in a creative field but never make anything that you actually like because you only make things that you think other people will like? That would be rough, but I think a lot of people think that way. Like they think they need to sound like this or that composer, or this sound designer, like that’s the correct way to do it. But the correct way to do it is the way that you do it. I mean, keep learning and growing and everything, but always be authentic, because people are going to be coming to you for your sound, not the way you imitate somebody else’s sound. If they wanted that other person, they would hire them, and if they can’t afford to hire them, they can hire one of the twelve billion people who can emulate that person better than you do. But nobody is going to emulate you better than you. That’s a lesson that took me a long time to learn, so if you can just skip over that whole thing and just start making music the way you want to make it, popularity be damned, that’d be the best.

JD: That’s amazing advice, and I think that’s a great way to wrap this up. Thanks again for taking the time to sit down with me and chat about all this great audio stuff.

RI: Yeah, of course. This was super fun. Bye, everybody!


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Interview with Brickapella Scat & the Dance Mazers and Live Performance of “Oh, Fly, Starr Wolf” On ITGC 4242fm

Here at ITCG, Intergalactic Radio, we recently had the opportunity to interview the up-and-coming musical group, Brickapella Scat and the Dance Mazers about their current Chasing the Legend tour. We learned more about the story behind their name, their lyrics, and their musical inspirations, and we received a live performance of their song, “Oh, Fly, Starr Wolf”.

A full transcription of the interview is available below, as well as an audio recording of the interview and a live performance of the song, “Oh, Fly, Starr Wolf”. Check your local show listings to see if Brickapella Scat and the Dance Mazers are performing in your region of the galaxy.

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Interview Transcription:

Coming to you live with 42 trillion watts of power – you’re listening to ITGC, Intergalactic Radio, 4242fm.

Marti MacEwan (MM): Welcome back to ITGC Live! This is Marti MacEwan about to bring you a special live performing guest!

Set apart by their spin on Classic Earth musical genres, Brickapella Scat and the Dance Mazers have been selling out shows across the galaxy on their Chasing the Legend tour.

They’re currently touring our part of the galaxy, so we have them in the studio today for an interview and a live musical performance.

MM: Thanks for coming by to visit us at the studio!

Brickapella Scat and the Dance Mazers (BS&DM): It’s our pleasure, Marti.

MM: How has your Chasing the Legend tour been going so far?

BS&DM: The tour has been great; we’ve been playing to great audiences, and we’re seeing some beautiful places in the galaxy along the way that most of us haven’t been to before, so it’s been a wonderful experience.

MM: Well, we’re glad you made it out to our little corner of the galaxy.

BS&DM: We’re glad we made it out here, too.Quote Slime-Balls

MM: I was wondering, where does your band’s name come from?

BS&DM: Good question. Our name and our music are both inspired by a couple different things. First, we all really like Classic Earth music – acapella, being without instrumentation, so just voices – then there’s scat, which is a type of jazz vocal technique. And when electronic music was being first produced on Earth, dance music was a type of music that was really popular, so we kind of mimic all these styles with our music. So that’s part of it.

The other part – the more interesting part, I think – is this story of this guy who was revived after being frozen for over 100 years, and he flies around in his trusty old ship, the Starr Wolf, blasting the heck out of slime-balls all over the universe. The guy’s name is Brick. Brick M. Stonewood – the M is for Metal. It’s a pretty cool story, and we’ve heard that it’s actually real, so he’s a big inspiration. And we like following folk legends; at the time we were forming the band, it [Brick’s story] was a big deal to us, so we stuck with that for the name.

MM: You reference Brick in your song, “Oh, Fly, Starr Wolf,” which we understand you’ll be performing for us live here in the studio, correct?

BS&DM: Yes, we certainly will.

MM: What is it that you say about Brick in the song?

BS&DM: We say, “Brick Metal Stonewood is a superhero as he zooms around inside his wicked Starr Wolf.” And then we end with a great chorus of, “Oh, fly, Starr Wolf.” So, it’s kind of like a tribute to this raw, unconventional guy.

MM: Great. And to call him a superhero, he must really… strike a chord with you.

BS&DM: Good one. Yeah, we like this dude’s story quite a bit. We also came from nothing and we’ve had some hard knocks ourselves – nothing like being frozen for a hundred years – but we can kind of relate. Brick is just this guy who got a raw deal and now he’s making the best of it. So when he’s in his ship zooming around the galaxy, he’s kind of like a superhero to us.

MM: Speaking of his ship, the Starr Wolf, you refer to it as ‘wicked’?

BS&DM: Yeah, that’s another Earth term that basically meant that something was really cool. So in our book, anything as unassuming as the Starr Wolf with that kind of firepower is pretty wicked.

MM: Well, when you put it that way, I guess I’d call it wicked as well. Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions.

BS&DM: Yeah, thanks for having us.

MM: We’ll now move on to the performance where we have Brickapella Scat and the Dance Mazers performing “Oh, Fly, Starr Wolf”.

To our listeners: We recommend activating your earphones to more accurately experience the sound of the live performance on our soundstage.

Take it away, fellas!

To listen to the full interview and song, click below.

To skip directly to the song, click below.

Wicked-Cool Self-Designing Websites from Start-Up: The Grid

After recently finishing the Chobits​ series and watching Her​ (both of which explore worlds where AI has been achieved to various extents), I found it fitting that I would hear about The Grid, an upcoming “AI” site designer (more like machine learning). It’s supposed to create websites based on one’s preferences and content with little to no work on behalf of the user. For example, whenever you add a new post, video, picture, song, product, etc., it automatically incorporates it into your page in a way that fits the feel, style, and function of your site. And it looks like it’s going to be rather visually pleasing to boot.

The Grid

Developed by The Grid’s own AI.

I’ve been trying to find an easy way to organize and theme my various websites and create a couple new ones for some other projects (some of them specifically music related!) without having to put in tons of time and money to build them (I’ve finally accepted that I’m not a web-designer), so unsurprisingly, I found this discovery very serendipitous.

I’ve enjoyed learning tiny bits and pieces about site development over the years, but I have a tendency to get caught up in the details, and I sometimes find myself trying to make boring, static templates look nicer. So I’m excited to be soon moving my sites (including this one!) to a service that takes care of a lot of the more mundane work for me. And apparently, there will still be a large amount of customization possible for actual web-developers (I think I’m just going to let it do most [all] of the work for me).

According to their site, they’re slated to launch in “late Spring,” and they’re offering what’s basically super discounted and beefed-up pre-orders until then: you get seven websites (7!) for eight dollars a month ($8!), plus a handful of other goodies! (After launch, it’s $25 a month with fewer goodies!) They offer the pre-order as a year subscription for $96, and that locks you in at the $8 a month rate for life. Pretty sweet!

If you’ve ever wanted a seemingly ridiculously easy way to make a really clean looking site (or 7 of them) about stuff you’re interested in, I’d encourage you to check them out soon so you can get in on the super cheap early-bird plan before the price triples! And if you found this info valuable and you decide to go with The Grid, please visit them through the following link as they’ll give me a little credit toward my pre-order (you’ll also get your own link that will do the same):

I hope some of you find this useful or at least interesting and exciting! Watch the video below for more info on The Grid.

TL;DR: The Grid is an upcoming “AI” site designer which will build attractive, functional, custom websites for you with minimal work. If you pre-order soon, you get locked in for life at an insanely low rate of $8 a month… for 7 websites! And if you use my link to go to the site and you pre-order as well, which would be really rad of you, I’ll get some credit back on my order! Link:

Wicked-Cool Self-Designing Websites from Start-Up: The Grid Apr27


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Why Do We Give Thanks?

I feel a strange pressure to write a post about how I’m thankful for stuff today. I do feel immense gratitude for a great many people, places, and things, but the conflict comes from my perceived expectation that I should share my thanks simply because it’s a holiday in the United States. However, I’m not in the United States.

Most people here in Thailand aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary today. People aren’t traveling to grandma’s house en masse, and grocery stores aren’t stocked up on inordinate amounts of cranberry sauce and turkey. But even still, I gathered for dinner with a group of friends to celebrate a holiday that isn’t even happening in the country in which I reside. Among the group were mostly people raised in the US, but also a handful of others from different countries. When asked about the meaning of Thanksgiving, I realized I have more questions about it than I have answers.

American Thanksgiving dinner at Cat House Restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

American Thanksgiving dinner at Cat House Restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Throughout the discussion, I found myself needing to explain the fairy tale version of Thanksgiving we’re taught in government schools, the more historically accurate version amalgamated from various texts by radical historians, and the more modern meaning that seems to broadly involve seeing people you like, eating tons of food, and posting about everything you’re thankful for on social media sites. And while our discussion was full of great cross-cultural insights, this last point is what has left me most puzzled.

Most of my Facebook friends are from the US, so most of my Facebook feed has been people sharing their thanks in their statuses. I almost posted a similar status myself about a recent trip to Pai, and moving into a new apartment today. But before I clicked the post button, I felt an internal nagging to question my own motives and intentions. When I stopped to listen to this nagging, I was greeted with a number of questions.

Do we share our thanks for the benefit of ourselves, for others, for both?

When we post our thanks each day in November or on Thanksgiving, are we actually more thankful during that time, or is it just that we’re making it a point to share the thanks we experience every other day of the year? And if that’s the case, why don’t we post our thanks every other day of the year?

Does sharing our thanks help us develop a habit of seeking out those things in our lives for which we have much gratitude? Or do we get a boost for a month or two that then fades when the US holiday season comes to a close?

Were all of us this thankful before social media allowed us to share our thanks with hundreds of family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers with such ease?

Do we realize how much of a miracle it is that we have a way to share our thanks across the world with such little time, energy, and money?

These are a few of the questions that came to mind. I don’t have answers for any of them, and I’m sure the answers differ for each individual, but I’m thankful for the chance to ponder. Maybe you are, too.

Create Every Day Wrap-Up

Every day for seven months – 212 consecutive days – I created something and posted the creation to this site. It was a fantastic experience that helped me learn more about my creative process and the personal goals I have for my creativity.

I’m very happy to have chosen this project for myself, and I’m very pleased with most of the ideas I came up with during that time. I am glad, however, to have decided to finish the project. Editing, uploading, and posting my creations (the most difficult part of the project, by far) began to distract from the creative process, and it eventually began to feel like a chore. Finally, I came to the point where I found myself saying, “crap, I still have to post tonight…” and I knew the project was no longer benefiting me. I decided to stop posting creations at that point to see how that would affect my desire to be creative, and I found myself longing to play the guitar, and I wanted to photograph everything I saw. With the strong expectation I had built up for myself to post something each day, I had lost some of what makes creating fun for me – spontaneity, emotional honesty, and a heartfelt desire to experience beauty that had previously never existed.

As an artist who seldom finishes anything, this project helped me to accept things I was producing that weren’t “perfect.” Limiting my time and keeping my perfectionism in check gave me a drive to do as much with as little as possible. With these guidelines helping me understand and work around some of my greatest barriers, my photography skills improved (quite dramatically, I’d say), as did my ability to quickly record musical ideas as they skipped through my mind, and my fear of kitchens faded dramatically. The progress I made during this project was something I couldn’t have predicted. And if there’s one major takeaway, it’s that I will forever be on the pathway of growing my skills and exploring my personal philosophy on creating.


As the sun sets on my Create Every Day project, a beautiful Halloween moon rises full of creative potential.

As the sun sets on my Create Every Day project, a beautiful Halloween moon rises full of creative potential.


Thank you all for the support you’ve given me throughout this project. I hope it was enjoyable watching it all unfold! All of my creations will still be up on this site under the Create Every Day tab, so feel free to peruse through them at your leisure. And keep your eyes and ears peeled – there’s plenty more to come… such as this piece on which I’ve been collaborating with my friend and fellow musician, The Panpsychist!



Please help me purchase more space for my SoundCloud account so I can continue to share my music!

If you’re so giving as to gift me a Pro account, I’ll be eternally grateful and I’ll give you special thanks in the liner notes of all the albums I produce forever! (

If you’ve got a buck or two you can donate and you have a PayPal account, my PayPal account email address is:

I also accept bitcoin donations below.

Thanks for all your support!

Lastly, Happy Halloween!!!



Bam! Kickin’ Your Writing Process Up A Notch With “Writing For The Web”

My good friend, Will Moyer, recently wrote an eBook called Writing For The Web. I like supporting my friends and the projects they undertake, but I seldom go out of my way to write rave reviews of their work or share their blog posts or music unless I find their work especially valuable, or I at least think people in my circles would. This book happens to be one of those few things that fits into both those categories.

Imagine that for your entire life you’ve been cooking your stir-fry by holding a match under a coffee cup. This book is a fully stocked commercial kitchen with Emeril Lagasse as your guide. “Bam! You just kicked your writing process up a notch!” Seriously, I think of this book as one big, easy-to-follow pro-tip on how to create an efficient and personalized writing flow with a bunch of tools that you can download for free!

I’ve never liked writing – notice the massive amount of time between blog posts on this site? However, what I didn’t realize is that a big part of my displeasure with writing was caused by the terrible tools I was using. My grad thesis just about killed me, mostly because I was using Microsoft Word. (Spoiler: Word sucks if you are attempting to use it to write anything, ever.) Will’s book provides a vast range of recommendations for programs to help writers more efficiently accomplish different tasks in their personal workflows, such as text editors for hassle-free content creation, tools for seamless group collaboration, programs for easily getting content web-ready, and plenty more.

I knew that Word sucked, that it always screwed up all my formatting, and that files I wrote in one version of Word probably wouldn’t be fully compatible with last year’s version (does that even make any sense?), but I didn’t know why, and I didn’t know what else to use. Writing For The Web changed all of that for me. Will outlines different parts of the writing process and shares what types of programs and tools are most useful for those different tasks. And far from taking a one-size-fits-all approach, he encourages writers to try out different tools and see which ones work best for their personal writing flow.

What I found even more impactful than Will’s thorough explanation of all the free programs and tools available, however, is that he urges writers to think more deeply about their personal writing processes, and he explains quite convincingly how taking a little time to construct a personal writing process with intention saves major time and energy in the long haul. For being such a clean, technical looking book, it really delves into the philosophy behind writing, and it’s really easy to follow, even if you consider yourself tech-illiterate. I’m not kidding when I say that this is the kind of book that your grandmother could get a lot of value out of (not to assume your grandmother isn’t tech savvy – she might be a programming wizard for all I know).

If you ever write anything using a computer (college students, bloggers, journalists, soccer moms, etc.), this book will help you personalize and streamline your writing process in ways you didn’t know were possible. And if you’re someone who dislikes writing, you may even start to enjoy writing after reading it (kind of like I have). Pick up this book and start investing in your personal writing process – your brain will thank you for it.

To get your copy of Will’s eBook, Writing For The Web, click on this link.

Check out a free sample chapter here.


Writing For The Web, by Will Moyer

Writing For The Web, by Will Moyer

Skinwalker’s Thailand Story-Travel-Time-Guide – Getting Around Within Cities Part II

In continuing with my theme of transportation within cities, for today’s Thailand Story-Travel-Time-Guide post I’ve decided to type a bit about renting motorbikes/motor-scooters!

I love renting motor-scooters – they’re pretty cheap (you can easily find a basic 125cc scooter for less than USD $10 per day), they’re super fun, they’re zippy, and they’re great for taking day trips out to waterfalls, temples, and mountains outside the cities. You don’t have to have a Thai or International Driver’s License to rent and use one, and it’s pretty easy to get the hang of riding them for most people.

If you decide to rent a motorbike or motor-scooter, do an online search for motorbike rental shops in your city to get an idea of what’s available, what kind of prices to expect, and which shops are reputable and which should be avoided (I had a particularly unpleasant experience with Mr. Mechanic in Chiang Mai). Also, ask your guesthouse staff for recommendations as they sometimes offer discounted rates through particular rental shops – some will even bring the motorbikes to your hostel for you, allowing you to check-out and return the motorbike right there where you’re staying.

There are several different types of motorbikes available at a range of different prices. I typically go with the 125cc scooters because I’m a jobless vagabond, and those are the cheapest to rent. However, you can rent anything from your basic in-town scooter to things that look like they came out of Tron – expect to pay significantly more for those, though, sometimes up to USD $40 per day or more. If a rental shop has a website, they often display a list of the types of motorbikes they have available as well as prices, so you should be able to get an idea of what you want before you even venture into a shop.

The Little Green motorbike I rode around Northern Thailand during one of my trips there.

The little teal motorbike I rode around on in Northern Thailand during one of my trips there.

When you go to rent your motor-scooter, bring a camera with you and a good set of eyes, as well as a copy of your passport. The companies will want to hold your passport there in case you either wreck the bike or run off with it/have it stolen. NEVER LEAVE YOUR PASSPORT WITH ANYBODY! This is why you bring a photo-copy of the main page of your passport – most companies will allow you to leave this with a deposit of 3000 baht (about USD $100). If the company insists on keeping your passport, walk thirty feet down the sidewalk to another rental company. As for the camera and good set of eyes, do a thorough check of all parts of the bike before signing anything, including the mirrors, handlebar end-caps, rims, tires, shocks, seat, plastic paneling, everything! And take photos of each part of the bike. This is for your protection so the company doesn’t try to charge you extraordinary fees for cosmetic repairs upon returning it. While not common, some companies will pull this on you and charge you the full repair amount for something as little as a scratch… which leads me to an important point about operating the motorbikes.

Be extremely cautious when riding on any sand, gravel, or on roadways that aren’t clean pavement, and only use your back brake when driving on these kinds of surfaces. The tires are often pretty slick and can easily slip out from under you if you’re not cautious on corners or if you’re relying too heavily on your front brake. I witnessed a minor accident when a person in front of me hit a small gravel patch while they were going fairly slowly around a corner. It was enough to cause the bike to skid out, resulting in quite a few scrapes and bruises for the driver and a few scratches on the plastic paneling of the scooter. That brings me to my next point – always purchase the additional insurance from the rental company for the scooter. In this case, the driver purchased extra insurance, which brought the “damage” charges down to a more manageable level (like USD $100, rather than the cost of an entire new bike). Still extraordinary for a few cosmetic scratches that were barely noticeable, but better than having to pay USD $1200, or whatever they felt like charging that day.

Another tip is to always lock the back wheel of the bike with the provided lock. While this won’t guarantee that your bike won’t be stolen, it will at least decrease the chance that a thief will pick your bike out of a line where others aren’t locked. Also, wear your helmet. While the law is rather lax around this point, if a police officer decides to stop you without your helmet, it’s an automatic fine. Also, it’s just far safer – the accident I saw may have been a bit worse if the rider hadn’t had their helmet on.

Regarding gasoline, the bikes will have none in them when you rent them, but filling up is cheap and the gas mileage is amazing. The stations have attendants that will help you fill up, and it shouldn’t cost more than a few US dollars to completely fill the tank on a small scooter. I filled up the tiny tank for about $4, which was more than enough to get me from Chiang Mai to Pai (about 85 miles). Also, driving is in the left lane in Thailand, but I think it’s easier to adjust to than one would expect. And lastly, road rules are more suggestions than anything, so stay aware of what’s going on around you and try not to let yourself become overwhelmed by the craziness that is Thai traffic.

Well, there’s a little info on renting motorbikes in Thailand. I hope it helps! Feel free to message me if you have questions I didn’t address, or if you have your own stories, advice, warnings, or amazing experiences. Also, keep checking back as I’ll be posting a part three soon with info on taxis, tuk-tuks, and songthaews!

Skinwalker’s Thailand Story-Travel-Time-Guide – Getting Around Within Cities Part I

Today, I decided to take a break from the newest song I’ve been writing so that I can post my first mini-article for my Skinwalker’s Thailand Story-Travel-Time-Guide series. I started brainstorming some ideas, and the first thing that came to mind was about getting around within cities, so I’m going to cover a couple methods of inner-city travel in today’s article. Today, I’m going to focus specifically on walking, renting bicycles, and taking mini-vans. I’ll soon write a few follow-ups that include taxis, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and songthaews!

Oh, walking – the oldest form of transportation known to humankind. I love walking through Thai cities because it’s cheap, healthful, and lets you catch every detail around you. There are many cities, or parts of cities, where walking is a great option. For example, if you visit Bangkok and stay near Khao San Road (a very popular tourist destination with a plethora of hostels, restaurants, shops, and street markets), it’s easy to spend an entire day walking around the area seeing the sights, temples, markets, and such. Also, in smaller towns like Pai, or on small islands like Koh Samet, walking is an optimal option.

Keep in mind, however, that the streets and sidewalks are likely going to be far dirtier than a common urban walkway in your quaint hometown neighborhood. So don’t wear your fanciest shoes (don’t bring your fanciest clothes, in general), and if you’re concerned about getting something gross on your feet, bring a pair of comfortable close-toed shoes as well as your sandals. While walking along the moat in Chiang Mai, there have been numerous times where rats or giant cockroaches have buzzed past my feet, resulting in quite a start because of my propensity toward wearing sandals. I’ve also slipped into slimy puddles and gunky goop wearing sandals, which is quite a disgusting feeling, so be cautious where you step.

Beautiful ruins in Ayutthaya - these and many other great sights can be seen within a day by bike.

Beautiful ruins in Ayutthaya – these and many other great sights can be seen within a day by bicycle in Ayutthaya.

While not available for rent in all cities, bicycles are an incredibly cheap way to get around far more quickly than walking and without the hassle of haggling with a tuk-tuk or songthaew driver. While I was in Ayutthaya (a city near Bangkok known for its many ruins), I rented a bicycle for the day for the equivalent of about USD $5. Within about five or six hours, I was able to see nearly all the ruins in the entire city (and there are a lot!), thanks to a map that was given to me by the bike rental shop.

Make sure you always lock the bike up, or at least lock the back tire to the frame with the provided lock to deter theft. While not necessarily common in Thailand, there are people everywhere in the world who are willing to steal things, so make yourself a less appealing target whenever possible. To rent a bicycle, I always find it easiest to ask the employees at your hostel if they know of any nearby bicycle rental companies – they’ll often know of reputable businesses, and sometimes you can get a small discount by renting through your hostel if they offer bicycles there.

The mini-vans I’ve ridden in have all been fairly modern, eight- to twelve-passenger vans that are fairly clean and air-conditioned. When traveling to specific, key destinations, such as an airport, mini-vans are often the cheapest way to get there. In Bangkok, I took a mini-van from Khao San Road to the Suvarnabhumi airport for about a third of the price of a taxi. However, part of the reason they’re so cheap is because they cram as many people as possible into the van before departing, so don’t plan on having much leg room. They also only go between very specific, set destinations in highly touristy areas, unlike a taxi where you can go to and from anywhere.

Okay! There’s a bit of information about a few forms of inner-city transportation. I’ll soon write another mini-article where I’ll talk about additional forms of inner-city transportation. Thanks for reading!